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Kansas governor vetoes a ban on gender-affirming care; GOP vows override

The Democratic governor of Kansas vetoed a bill Friday that would have banned gender-affirming care for minors, setting up a confrontation with the state’s Republican supermajority as it tries to join more than a dozen states restricting transgender care.

The Republican-led legislature is widely expected to attempt an override of the veto. The measure that Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) quashed, Senate Bill 233, would ban hormone therapy, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery for people younger than 18.

Carrie Rahfaldt, a spokeswoman for Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins (R), told The Washington Post that she expects the Senate to begin voting sometime after a veto session begins April 29.

If two-thirds of the Senate votes to pass the bill, the measure would be kicked to the House, which also requires a two-thirds majority for an override. Hawkins said in a statement Friday that “House Republicans stand ready to override [the] veto to protect vulnerable Kansas kids.”

Kansas has 40 Democrats and 85 Republicans in its House and 11 Democrats and 29 Republicans in its Senate. The bill passed the House 82-39, and the Senate 27-13, largely along party lines. To override the veto, the House would need to add two yes votes and the Senate would not be able to lose any.

The success of the vote in the part-time legislature largely depends on attendance.

“Absences will change the number that they need to reach,” said Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas. “People have to leave and go home or some work-related or family-related issue. So, it very well could be that they don’t have enough votes in both chambers to override the veto.”

Kelly wrote in her veto message that she rejected the bill because it “tramples parental rights,” a phrase often used by conservatives to defend book restrictions at public libraries and schools.

“This divisive legislation targets a small group of Kansans by placing government mandates on them and dictating to parents how to best raise and care for their children,” Kelly said. “The last place that I would want to be as a politician is between a parent and a child who needed medical care of any kind. And, yet, that is exactly what this legislation does.”

House Republican leadership decried the veto.

“As we watch other states, nations, and organizations reverse course on these experimental procedures on children, Laura Kelly will most surely find herself on the wrong side of history with her reckless veto of this common-sense protection for Kansas minors,” Hawkins said in the Friday statement.

Last year, Kelly vetoed four bills that would have created restrictions on transgender people, including measures barring transgender girls and women from joining female K-12 and college sports teams, and ending the state’s legal recognition of transgender people’s gender identities. Republicans overrode vetoes on three of those measures, according to the Kansas City Star.

A record number of bills targeting transgender people have made their way through state legislatures in recent years. Lawmakers have introduced nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills during the 2024 legislative session, according to data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union. By May 2023, legislators had introduced more than 400 such bills, compared with about 150 in 2022, according to The Washington Post.

Many of these bills target gender-affirming care for minors, the use of restrooms and other facilities such as locker rooms, pronouns and drag shows, according to the ACLU. Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa and Tennessee have introduced the highest share of anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year, according to the ACLU.

In January, Ohio’s Republican supermajority banned gender-affirming care for minors, overriding Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s December veto of the bill. The law prohibits hormone therapy, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery for people younger than 18. The measure also bans transgender girls from playing on sports teams designated for girls and women in high school and college.

Like Ohio’s bill, Kansas’s S.B. 233 would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youths. The bill also would restrict the use of state funds for gender-affirming care; ban the use of state property, including the University of Kansas Medical Center, on such care; and bar state employees who work with children from promoting or advocating for gender-affirming care. Under the measure, any health care provider who violates the ban would have their license revoked.

Major medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the Endocrine Society oppose restrictions on gender-affirming care. The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have said gender-affirming care for transgender children is “medically necessary.”

Advocacy organizations warned state legislators that the “the bill’s extreme reach could have unintended consequences.”

“We cannot overstate the harm this bill will cause to some of our most vulnerable Kansas children and their families,” D.C. Hiegert, LGBTQ+ fellow of the ACLU of Kansas, said in a statement after the veto. “This bill attacks parents’ rights to access life-saving healthcare for their kids and threatens Kansas medical providers. And it is written so broadly, it could impact spaces like schools, therapist offices, or state agencies like the Kansas Department of Children and Families — and possibly every person who provides any kind of support or services to children in those places, as well as the youth who need them.”

Haider-Markel, who has written books about transgender rights and politics, predicts that the bill would prompt parents of transgender children to move out of the state to seek medical care.

The legislation would upend “the lives of young people and their families and really, I think, encourages many families with trans members to think about leaving the state because of the way in which they’ve targeted their families,” he said.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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